Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Mario Rodriguez came into a world filled with the culture off the streets. Although living under the guidance of his devout Catholic parents, Rodriguez dabbled in everything the streets had to offer, from gang life to hip-hop.
Thanks to his older brother Delfino, a graffiti artist and break dancer (b-boy), Rodriguez went the route of hip-hop, a culture born on the streets but brought out the creative nature of its participants.
Rodriguez experimented with the four elements of hip-hop culture: b-boying, graffiti art, emceeing (rapping), and DJing. While excelling at hip-hop, he needed an appropriate nickname. Delfino was called Fienz on the streets, but Delfino and his friends had a unique name for Rodriguez.
"My brother's friends used to come over to the house when I was in junior high," says Chonz. "There were no boxers back then, so I wore whitey tighties, and when they came over, they'd say, 'Yo, chones (a Mexican slang word for underwear), go put some clothes on!' I used to kick it in my chones, and take out the trash in my chones, so my name was chones for a while. Then people just started calling me Chonz."
Now christened with a nickname, Rodriguez gravitated towards DJing. Inspired by the local Denver DJs, DJ Chonz practiced and honed his skills in his basement for two years before coming out to compete in a DJ competition. When he won a local radio DJ competition in 1996 after being undefeated for consecutive weeks, DJ Chonz's star began to rise on the Denver hip-hop scene.
The win earned him a 30-minute and then a 60-minute segment on the hip-hop radio program "Eclipse: Shedding of a Blacker Light on KGNU" and he was invited to compete in regional and national DJ competitions such as the DMC Mixing Championships, Guitar Center Mixing Championships and the Lowrider-sponsored DJing competitions. The competitions opened the door for Chonz to share the stage with hip-hop luminaries like Dr. Dre, Eminem, Slick Rick, The Roots, Snoop Dogg, and a tour with De La Soul, Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon and Baby Bash.
After making so much noise on the local scene, in 2001, Denver's largest hip-hop station KS107.5 (KQKS-FM), allowed Chonz and local personalities Francois Baptiste and Kingdom to launch the Radio Bums MixtapeShow, a specialty hip-hop show on Sunday nights. Because of the popularity of the show and Chonz's skills on the turntable, KS107.5 recruited him to mix live in the studio for the weekend party mix and during the afternoon drive, making him the first DJ to ever mix live on commercial radio in Denver.
Today, with 30 years of experience, he's the most recognizable DJ in Colorado and surrounding states. Over the years, he led the station to No. 1 rankings in various categories, including afternoon and night hosts for the 18-34 demographic from 2009 to 2011 locally and nationally in 2012.
He's won numerous awards from Denver's alt-weekly Westword's "Best of …" issues, including Best Hip-Hop DJ, Best Denver Radio, and Best Online Radio show for a daily mix he streamed live on the internet. He was also awarded Best Afternoon Show from the Colorado Broadcast Awards in 2010.
DJ Chonz continues to dominate the nightclub scene with several weekly events in Denver. When he's not on the road or in the studio, giving back to the community is essential to DJ Chonz, especially when he can lead young people to find positive life direction through music. "There are many genres of music," Chonz says. "I am fortunate to be able to play all formats. This allows for growth as a person and as a DJ. A DJ's job is to cater to a crowd and play what's relevant to them. That's what I do."